National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

Model Programs from the Nation's Counties

By Charlie Ban

Online Orientation Saves Time for L.A. County Jurors ... Jurors in Los Angeles County, Calif. have a chance to make their first days in the pool more convenient, thanks to an online orientation system.

The system, which debuted in 2008, has served 50,000 out of the 648,000 people selected to serve on juries in the last 18 months.

“It’s not designed to cut costs directly; we wanted to make jury duty a little easier,” said Gloria Gomez, director of Juror Services for Los Angeles County Superior Court. “Our court employees are also relieved because they have fewer people to manage in the juror assembly room.”

The online orientation takes approximately one hour, and the juror can complete the course anytime between his selection and due date in court. The orientation process at the court complex takes at least 2.5 hours.

“Jurors, having taken the online course, can leave home or work later to reach the court, and that usually means they can travel after rush hour,” Gomez said. “Our traffic is notoriously bad, so asking jurors to come into downtown Los Angeles during morning rush hour is an increased burden.”

The online course is a series of three, streamed instructional videos that cover the practicalities of jury service — where to park, where to eat, the legal protections afforded to jurors, the judicial role jurors fill and the courtroom procedures. The county information technology staff, directed by Program Manager Don Yuan, produced two of the three videos, the other is a state-mandated orientation video. The court staff scripted and acted in the videos.

“Now, when these jurors start the trial process, judges can assume all the same information has been given to them, because it has,” Gomez said. “These videos standardize the presentation so everyone is seeing the same thing.”

The IT staff was new to streaming video, so the personnel attended training classes on the various hardware and software, most of which the county owned already. The crew eventually bought a teleprompter for the judge to use and additional lighting, but the total cost was approximately $3,000.

Participants need a computer with broadband Internet access to connect with the streaming videos, each of which includes multiple-choice questions. When the orientation is completed, jurors are awarded certificates that entitle them to directly enter the jury pool for the first panel when they arrive in court.

Brochures about the online orientation option are mailed with jury summonses and jurors responding to summonses via the court’s phone system are also told about the option.

Next, Gomez and Yuan will work on a refresher course for jurors doing repeat service in a short time span and tweak the existing program with input from juror feedback.

“We have noticed more and more people leaving positive feedback than we expected,” Yuan said.

“This orientation provides the potential juror with a sense of positive anticipation to serve, as opposed to the usual sense of reluctant obligation,” one wrote.

“Anything that allows me to not have to fight downtown L.A. commuter traffic is worth its weight in gold,” another said. “Serving on a jury is not a problem for me, but driving into downtown L.A. is a nightmare.”

Gomez is pleased that the court can do something to reduce the time commitment that comes with serving on juries.

“If someone can have a more relaxed trip to court or manage to take their children to school, it was a good use of our resources,” she said. “And they truly are our resources, everything was done in-house and cost-effectively.”